Tag Archives: todd munson

Sunday Afternoon Hot Takes: Wisconsin Edition

Before kickoff yesterday, we shared some new and bizarre ways for Wisconsin to beat the Huskers to add a little spice to the boring predictability of blowout losses. One way we didn’t suggest was a last second Badger field goal because that just seemed to a little too trite.

We all know how that worked out.

Rafael Gaglianone
How it feels when coach says he’s taking you to Olive Garden to celebrate.

How Much Stress Can One Blogger Take: Yesterday was the first Husker game I watched at home in three years. With kickoff at 12:30 and the first pitch of the Dodger game at six, I chose to stay home and increase my odds of getting to see the end of the game and make it to Chavez Ravine in time.

For the record, it is exactly 7.6 miles from our driveway to Dodger Stadium.

Thanks to an Obamajam and USA playing Mexico at the Rose Bowl, LA traffic was promised to be extra crazy so we planned to leave at four.

The clock struck the fateful hour with about five minutes or so left in the game. The only perk of staying home was being able to sync up the Huskers app and watch the game with the ESPN choads on mute. Up until that second, everything worked like a charm until my lovely wife said, “You can listen to it in the car.”

15 minutes later she was dragging me out of the house by my ear without granting even a second to mourn what had happened to the Huskers yet again.

We listened to the post game press conference en route and her thoughts on Mike were that “he sounds like a nice guy and maybe a little sad.

No kidding.

Luckily, the Dodger game made for a nice, relaxing Saturday evening of October baseball. It wasn’t at all the craziest game I’ve ever attended thanks to Chase Utley‘s fateful, game tying double play break up. While social media was imploding with outrage, the feeling in the stands was completely different. The Mets fans surrounding us thought what happened was an acceptable baseball play and were more upset about getting hosed on getting an out at second. Once it was revealed that Tejada suffered a broken leg, the mood for both sides definitely turned somber. Before you rail on Utley, think how you’d feel if it were Alex Gordon breaking up a double play or remember how you felt when Kenny Bell laid down his soul crushing block.

Leave it to a Giant’s blogger to have probably the most rational take on what happened. And for good measure, here are some previous thoughts from Mets manager Terry Collins about the need to be tough when breaking up double plays.

Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch: Last week’s pile of poo is now on fire.

Mike Riley Flaming Pile of Poo

Our Score Prediction:

Pretty far off-base on the score but it’s all there was to work with. The magic score prediction hat is still MIA and may or may not have gone missing after seeing Van Halen at the Hollywood Bowl last Friday night.

Best Shade of the Day:

DPE: Remember when DPE broke his foot but the silver lining was that if everything went OK he’d be back in time to run wild against Wisconsin? DPE had a pair of receptions for 31 yards. Since his return at Illinois, he’s been a complete non-factor.

Running Back by Committee: Can this please stop? Last week it was Imani Cross who was absent from the backfield. He returned this week with Ozigbo taking his place in parts unknown on the Husker sideline. And does Mikale Wilbon need to get his picture put on a milk carton or what?

Jordan Stevenson: His redshirt was burned for 14 kick return yards, a couple touchbacks, and the honor of becoming running back number five.

Andy Janvovich: This is the perfect summation of his 55 yard touchdown run.

That Bankshirt Defense Tho: When Wisconsin got the ball back with 63 seconds to play, you just knew it was going to be curtains for the Huskers. It was inevitable that Joel Stave was going to find a way to shred the Huskers’ secondary like cheddar and he did just that, taking the Badgers from their own 30 to the Huskers’ 28 in only three plays. Not to beat the dead horse of bringing up the old regime but chances are they would have rolled the dice and dialed up a blitz on one of those plays. Getting Stave to the turf just once would have chewed up some major clock for Wisconsin.

Dirk Chatelain and Hip Hop: As someone who professes his love of The Boss in his twitter bio, it shouldn’t be surprising that Dirk may not be the most well versed when it comes to that hippity hop but this passage in his otherwise on-point column is a real head scratcher-

…the speakers blasted “Let Me Clear My Throat,” an old-school hip-hop song that, when it comes on the radio, prompts your father to turn the station.

DJ Kool dropped Let Me Clear My Throat in 1996. While Pearl Jam is starting to show up on classic rock radio from time to time, mid 90s hip hop is a little too new to ever be considered old school. And then, there’s the issue of Let Me Clear My Throat even appearing on radio outside of a specialty station such as 93.5 KDAY. So with that in mind, for “dad” to even have a chance to hear DJ Kool, he would already be listening to a hip hop oriented station and would probably turn up the radio, not change the station.

Or, maybe “dad” is riding shotgun and your car and if that’s the case he should be respectful of the universal “my car, my rules” policy.

NUMBERS TO DEPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH

1: The number of times a Husker running back has rushed for over 100 yards in a single game this season. (Newby hit 198 against South Alabama.)

394: Sam THUNDERLEG Foltz‘s yardage on nine punts. The Husker offense racked up 325 total yards.

3: Total carries for last week’s running back of the future Devine Ozigbo.

39.28: Tommy Armstrong‘s completion percentage. He was 11 – 28 on the day. He’s currently at 52.4 percent on the year which is almost a full tick below last year’s 53.3%.

36: The total margin by which the 2 and 4 Huskers have outscored their opponents this year.

17: Jordan Westerkamp‘s total receiving yardage the past two games.

17, 715: The turnout for #7 Youngstown State‘s rumble with #4 Illinois State. The Cardinals flew away with 31 – 29 victory after the Penguins’ 2 point conversion and ensuing onsides kick failed.

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Sunday Morning Hot Takes: Miami Edition

Welcome to another edition of Sunday Morning Hot Takes!

Holy schnikes. Who would have predicted that Mike Riley era would have spiraled into high drama just three games into his first season?

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover so let’s get to the hot takes.

ALEX LEWIS: Went on a Facebook/Twitter rampage this morning.

Um… dude… just put on your hater blockers and don’t worry about what the eggs are saying. And really people, just save yourself the drama and temptation to be a jackass and don’t follow players on social media.

POP QUIZ: What’s worse than watching your favorite team lose?

Watching your two favorite teams lose in one day.

I still have mixed feeling about what I did  (and feel free to question the status of my Nebraskan citizenship) but with the Huskers trailing 33 – 10 in the fourth quarter, I decided to jump ship and head to the Dodger game. Clayton Kershaw was pitching and the prospect of snagging a seat above the bullpen to watch him warm up was a lot more appealing than continuing to watch what was spiraling down the drain in Miami.

(For the record, I did listen to the game the rest of the way and suffered the embarrassment of getting busted screaming in public when the Huskers tied it up.)

Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw gets ready to go to work.

All in I spent a total of 7 hours watching my two favorite teams lose. Still, it was not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

If anyone needs to be blamed for the Huskers’ loss let’s blame the Captain America of Hollywood Blvd. With our Californians for Nebraska watch site a mere three blocks from the Hollywood Blvd freak show, I thought it’d be fun recurring gag to have characters model our score prediction every week.

Hollywood Blvd Captain America

The only rule I set for doing this is I have to go with the first character with whom I cross paths. Yesterday, it was a dead heat between Cap and Chewbacca. I rolled the dice on Cap thinking he’d be the lesser of the two crazies.

Boy was I wrong.

Before we got started, I explained to Cap what he needed to do (stand there, wear a hat) and handed him five bucks (a nice bump from the standard buck a photo). Cap then proceeded to art direct our photo shoot and when we wrapped, he asked me for another five because his charges ten a photo. FYI: It is illegal for the characters to name a price. Besides, the dude made five bucks in 30 seconds so F-him in the pie hole.

EXCUSES: Let’s stop making them. Even if Bo did his grocery shopping at the 99 Cent Store, Division I athletes are Division I athletes. Yes, it can take time to learn new plays and schemes but it isn’t like these guys are suddenly playing a whole new sport.

Congrats to Caneshades. There’s nothing we can do but tip our cap and stand by the road and cheer as the winners go by.

Dirk Chatelain threw pretty some serious shade in the Huskers’ general direction in his post game story:

Truth is, Nebraska is lacking talent and/or depth in key areas. Defensive end. Linebacker. Cornerback. Offensive line. Wide receiver. Running back. Tight end. OK, lots of key areas.

Pelini didn’t recruit well the past few years. And Riley’s staff hasn’t maximized what they have, especially on defense. Bad combination.

And Dirk even dropped a “my goodness” in there so you know he means business.

THE BEST FANS IN ALL OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Are sad Alabama fans.

Make yourself feel less worse by relishing in the glorious misery of others. And if you need moar, here’s a great gallery from SB Nation (h/t @joejanecek)

TOP HUSKER TWEETS FROM PEOPLE YOU AREN’T ALREADY FOLLOWING:  C’mon, Hail Varsity. Let’s try to branch out a little next time. There’s some gold to be found on twitter from people who aren’t Gabrielle Union.

FINALLY: Still haven’t checked in with the buddy in question but if I don’t hear from him by this afternoon I will send out a search party.

 

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I Was the Cheese in a Peter Brothers Sandwich

With a tale as improbable as one that finds yourself trapped between nearly 600 pounds of caged fury known as the Peter Brothers, you just can’t start with “That one time…”

It needs some proper backstory. So let’s set the table.

Twenty years ago today, the Huskers played their home opener against Arizona State. 77,418 fans packed in to Memorial Stadium to witness the carnage as the Huskers piled up 686 yards of total offense en route to a 77-28 victory that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Nebraska went to the locker room at halftime up 63-21.

After starting their season on the road against Oklahoma State and a Nick Saban coached Michigan State, it was a much needed welcome home for the Big Red. Following their 50 – 10 blowout in East Lansing, running back Lawrence Phillips was arrested for assaulting his former girlfriend which turned out to be his first major step on a long and winding road that would end in prison. Nebraska didn’t miss Phillips’ absence in the backfield as Clinton Childs and true freshman Ahman Green each racked up over 100 yards rushing and combined for three touchdowns.

While they didn’t make much of a ripple at the time, players of note that day for the Sun Devils were quarterback Jake Plummer, wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa (you might know him best as the Old Spice Guy), and linebacker Pat Tillman.

Also in attendance that day was this guy. I was working my very first game as a Sports Director for 90.3 KRNU.

If you’ve never caught the signal around Lincoln or listened online (hello, future!), KRNU is the official radio station of UNL that’s run by broadcasting students under the very patient guidance of legendary professor Rick Alloway.

To give students the experience of working at a “real” radio station, KRNU’s programming back then was a little bit of everything and on fall Saturdays it wasn’t uncommon for the station to segue from playing the likes of Mercy Rule and Throwing Muses to becoming the Mighty Sports 90 for a few hours.

Being a Sports Director was one of two prestigious positions at the station. While the Music Directors were plied with free CDs and concert tickets, our perks were rectangles of card stock and an elastic string known as the press pass.

To this day, it boggles me how much access the Athletic Department and Journalism School gives to its students. Even with the Huskers in the midst of the greatest run college football has ever known, us dopey kids were treated the same as the rest of the working media all the way down to having our own booth atop the press box, which back then wasn’t the sleek, shining jewel that you see today.

Our little cube of Memorial Stadium real estate wasn’t much more than a tree house built from plywood and corrugated metal that would be right at home in the Diepsloot area of Johannesburg. Couple the lack of structural integrity with a lack of windows and we’d either swelter or shiver our way through broadcasts.

But we never complained. We got to talk Husker football and watch the best team in history from an incredible vantage point just barely to the right of the 50-yard-line. Lunch (plus dessert at halftime) was a catered affair and if you weren’t on the mic for a game broadcast, you’d watch the finish from the sidelines so you could get a head start on getting set up for recording the post-game press conference as part of our duties for the Huskers Sports Service.

Husker Sports Service… sounds impressive doesn’t it?

To help media from around the country gain access to sound bites, the “Husker Sports Service” would make selected clips available, not for downloading but recording, as in with a tape player. Don’t forget, the internet was still a novelty back then.

After recording a press conference, we’d use state-of-the-art Audio Wizard software to chop up a few choice soundbites from coaches and players that we’d then transfer onto Fidelipacs which would then be plugged into a refrigerator sized machine that was connected to the Husker Hotline, a series of telephone numbers that media could dial-in to and record sound bites to use for their own radio shows.

Basically, it was a lot of work to do what could be handled with an iPhone and a Twitter account today.

A few minutes after the Huskers and Sun Devils left the field, Coach Osborne opened the press conference with a story about Kenny Cheatham blaming his muffed punt return on a nasty case of pink eye that was affecting his vision. He got a lot of laughs and was off and running. One thing TO never gets enough credit for is just how funny he is.

Since we were just there to record the thing, we’d usually hang in the back and let the big dogs in the “real media” like Tom Shatel, Lee Barfknecht, and a young gun named Steve Sipple ask the questions. We knew it was a privilege to be in the same room so we always did our best to not draw unnecessary attention to ourselves.

I found a spot on a couch in the back and soaked up the excitement of being at my first press conference. I guess that’s why I didn’t notice the eclipse until it was too late.

If you’ve ever watched a shark attack survivor tell their tale during Shark Week, many of them will say the only warning was how the  water around them suddenly shifted a split second before a shark clamped down.

So there I was, on that couch minding my own business when my field of vision suddenly went dark. I looked up and saw the silhouette of something massive blocking out a stand up light. It pointed towards me and promptly plopped down on the open space to my right.

Holy shit.

It was Jason Peter. Before I could even process what was happening, his big brother Christian claimed the seat to my left.

They were both still wearing their uniform pants and were completely drenched in sweat and blood in varying states of dryness. Base layers didn’t exist back then so they both wore chopped up grey cotton t-shirts that had soaked to a few shades darker.

They were two of the biggest humans I had ever seen. They didn’t say word. They just snarled, rumbled, and shook as if they were getting ready to play a fifth quarter.

Meanwhile, I just hoped they didn’t notice the wet spot forming in the crotchal region of my brand new Eddie Bauer khakis. My first day on my job was going to be my last because two of the baddest dudes to ever wear Blackshirts were going to eat me.

There was no way I was going to survive this.

I was more terrified than Ripley was when she met the alien in Aliens 3 except I had two beasts breathing down my neck. I just tried my best not to twitch and wondered where I went so wrong in my soon-be-over 19 year-old life that I found myself sitting in the Daisy Duke seat sandwiched between a pair of future NFL players.

The closest thing to social media back in 1995 was the phone book. All you knew about a Husker player was what you saw on the field or after the game. In the case of the Peter Brothers, they murdered the opposition and then they talked about how they carried out those murders. That’s all that the world knew about those guys. There were no Instagram or Twitter accounts to show off their fun loving, “just like us” side off the field. What you saw was all you got.

And I was going to be disemboweled if I didn’t take decisive action. Getting locked in the pen with the bulls after the rodeo was no place to be for a 175 pounder who lettered in tennis.

I summoned all the courage I could and somehow the words fell out of my mouth with a semblance of order and as little fear as possible.

“You guys played a really good game out there. Really kicked some ass.”

I looked at Christian. He didn’t say a word but nodded his approval at my statement. Before I could even glance over at Jason, I heard a growl that sounded a lot like “Thanks, man.”

And that was my window of daylight to make an escape.

I gotta go check my tapes,” I announced to no one as I stood from the couch. Realizing my pants were miraculously still dry, I looked back towards my new friends and said, “You guys can spread out if you want. I don’t think I’ll be coming back.

The didn’t need my permission. The sliver of space I once occupied was already long gone.

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A Chat With BYU’s Austen Jorgensen

Earlier this year, I got to know a guy named Austen Jorgensen through my day job. Austen works for a company called Nuvi. (If you happen to be in the market for a high powered social media monitoring platform, hit him up. Nuvi blows the doors off anything out there.)

After corresponding with him for a while, Austen took our budding relationship to the next level with an invite to connect on LinkedIn. (If you ever need to find me, I’m the Todd Munson wearing a McRib t-shirt.) Checking out Austen’s profile, there was a nugget of info that he’d never mentioned jumped out at me like the flipping Boogeyman.

The dude played football at BYU.

And he wasn’t just on the team. He was a hoss linebacker and a major cog in the Cougars’ defense for the duration of his career which culminated with the 2013 season. After a momentary geek out session, I fired off an email demanding to know why he had kept such a vital piece of information under wraps. From there, we had a pretty serious college football brodown and I got him on the hook to do an interview ahead of BYU’s date with destiny in Lincoln.

In talking talking football with him, the similarities between Utah and Nebraska life became strikingly familiar.  Austen grew up on his family’s ranch, helping to raise high end cattle that becomes the best steak you’ll ever eat. (His rather bold claim was as much of a beef as our conversation had.) Like many Husker families, Austen’s younger brother Colby followed his lead to BYU to experience the pride of playing for their home state school. This spring Colby transitioned from tight end to linebacker and was having a very solid fall camp until he unfortunately fractured his neck during practice.

So… on that uplifting note. Let’s get to the interview.

BIG RED FURY: I wish we could kick things off on a much lighter note but how is Colby doing following his surgery? Is his wife and your family doing OK? Is there anything Husker fans can do to help?

AUSTEN JORGENSEN: I wish we could start a little lighter as well, but luckily Colby is doing well. He’s walking and he is going to be alright after all this. His wife is hanging in there strong and being a great support for him (even though they’ve only been married a few weeks now). There have been a few Husker fans that have reached out to local news sources and others to show the support and love for Colby already. That kind of continued support goes a long ways.  More than people even realize I think.

Growing up were you and your brother pretty competitive with each other? What was it like having him join you in the Cougar program?

Colby and I weren’t in competition much because of our age difference.  But, you know we were going at it on the basketball court and throwing down living room wrestling matches!  Clearly that big brother strength gave me the advantage. Haha. It was really cool to have him come on the team with me and play though. I was pushing for his success and wanting him to be a part of the program with me, so that was a fun experience.

You were pretty heavily recruited out of high school, with Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Cal and Notre Dame to name a few. Did you always know you were going to choose BYU and what was it like playing for your home state school? (Not to brag or try to make your interview about me but in high school I did receive a couple pamphlets about playing Division III baseball so I know all about the recruiting process.)

Haha. You definitely know the feeling. Not even sure I need to cover this question then, my man. Haha. BYU was the first to approach me and offered me on the spot my junior year and I committed right there. I was born and raised in a super small town here in Utah (Mt. Pleasant) where not a lot of people received college attention, let alone a Division 1 athletic scholarship. Both my parents went to BYU for a short time, so I was familiar with their program the most. Honestly, I had no clue what I was doing in the recruiting process, but I did know that I wanted to go to BYU from a pretty young age. Right after the initial commitment to BYU is when the floodgates opened with the other team’s recruiters.

Bronco Mendenhall has the best name for a coach since Vince Lombardi. How was it playing for him?

If you think Bronco is a great name, you should look up the names of his children and brothers! Ha. It was intense playing for Coach Mendenhall. He has a strong personality towards the game and intent on making you the best with intense practices and workouts.  He’s really passionate about the defense, especially with his background, so he focused on our side of the ball a lot. His intense motivation on the defense being as perfect as it can be helped us have some of the top rated defenses nationally for the 5 years I played there. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Bronco’s children are named Raeder, Breaker, and Cutter. Yes, the guy is pretty much raising his own brood of American Gladiators.)

BYU bumped off some pretty big teams and took a lot of others to the wire during your career. What was it that made you guys such a tough opponent that could go toe-to-toe with anyone?

Playing the big opponents and going head to head with them became a challenge that was exciting and fun. The biggest thing that helped us compete with those programs was our mindset. It was preached and an overall feeling on the team that we could play with anyone, no matter the size of the school or team we were playing. Also, we knew we were going to be prepared and bring it as hard as we could every game. The way the defense trained gave us confidence and the mindset that we were going to bring it and hit you as hard and fast as we can while staying fundamentally sound!

Austen Jorgensen Andy Dalton
Austen takes down Andy Dalton. You may know Andy as the guy who doesn’t get Rex Burkhead the ball enough. You can see Austen harassing Andy starting at 2:45 in this video

Mike Riley, Nebraska’s new head coach, comes from Oregon State. Anything in particular that stands out about playing the Beavers?

I do remember that the Beavers mixed up the run and pass quite a bit. One particular play I remember looking for on defense was the front side guard and center lead blocking around the edge for a speed option play. For some reason I remember a lot of counter plays and them trying to play a little bit of smash mouth run game. But, I could be mixing up different games into the fading memory bank over here. Haha.

What was your favorite game that you played in?

Even though we struggled against Utah for most of my years, I absolutely loved playing up at their stadium. I loved playing within the hostile environment and feeling the entire stadium roaring against you. For some reason that was a huge rush and drove me to play better. The runner up to playing the Utes up there would be the game where we smashed the Longhorns up here in Provo. That game was a rush!

You went off against Georgia Tech in a 38-20 victory your senior year. What can I relay about that beat down to my father-in-law who happens to be a GT alum when we visit over the holidays?

You can pass on to him that I hated that game honestly! Haha. No one likes playing defense against a power/speed option offense. The slightest wrong step on defense and you’re out of place for the offense to get a big play. Also, you can let him know that that game was the ultimate “career ending” game for me. The chop blocking form they use for taking out defensive lineman and linebackers is what took my knee out and I had to get surgery just a couple weeks after that game. Kind of a depressing way to end that question. Haha.

Husker fans take a lot of pride in being good hosts to visiting fans. (Seriously, they do. Except for maybe Wisconsin which has been testing the limits of graciousness.) With this being BYU’s first visit to Lincoln, what should Nebraska fans know about the culture of BYU football and Cougar fans that could make them feel welcome? Any special cheers or greetings?

BYU fans act in a similar manner as Husker Nation I believe. They try to be welcoming and accommodating (except to Utah fans. Kind of goes without explanation, haha), so I think the two fan bases will get along. I’m not aware of any particular cheers or chants that would be welcoming. One that doesn’t feel very welcoming and I would suggest not be used is the classic “F— you BYU”.  Although it does rhyme and is kind of catchy, it doesn’t give off the most welcoming vibe. Ha.

What’s your prediction for the game? (Just in case you haven’t been following the Huskers, here’s a quick scouting report: along with a whole new coaching staff and schemes, their most explosive offensive weapon will be out and they seem to be doing their best with making sure they have as many suspended players as BYU.)

It’s hard not to play favorites or have a biased opinion and go with the alum choice of BYU here. But, BYU has done a good job of losing some key players to injury as well as suspension, so that makes the decision a little tougher. Also, the home game advantage in Lincoln is very real. Tough for me to predict a score, but I’ll stick to my bias opinion of BYU pulling off an upset there in Nebraska, with a tough down to the wire game. (Hopefully there’s no hard feelings after this? Ha.) (EDITOR’S NOTE: There won’t be any hard feelings but what you described is basically the worst possible outcome for the Huskers.)

Finally, because Husker fans never got to experience the joy of beating Texas at home during Nebraska’s time in the Big 12, how great was it to take the Longhorns to the woodshed on your home turf?

This really was one of my favorite games to play in within my football career. The atmosphere of that night game was unlike any game I had been a part of. I don’t know how to explain the excitement and overall joy of manhandling the Longhorns. It’s a feeling that I’ll have to hold on to and if anyone would like to understand it further, just imagine winning the lottery, but on a much, much lower scale that doesn’t actually make you rich. Haha.

Austen Jorgensen
Austen Jorgensen helping take the Longhorns to the proverbial woodshed.

 

 

 

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2015 Oregon Ducks Preview

This site did not get hacked. We really are running an Oregon preview.

With Oregon being the team that the majority of Husker Nation covets… what with their explosive offense, head coach in-waiting Scott Frost, and those fancy pants non-adidas uniforms, there’s no denying the Ducks are the cat’s pajamas so it makes perfect sense to give a glimpse of just how much greener the grass grows in Eugene.

Plus, there’s that whole thing about the Ducks being Mike Riley’s Oklahoma, K-State, Colorado, Miami, and Wisconsin rolled into one AND Oregon just happens to be the marquee non-conference match up for the next two years. And let’s not forget about this season’s common opponent Michigan State.

So, in an effort to help Husker Nation to decide if we should start quaking in our collective boots about next season, we enlisted the help of Jason Selby, a junior at the University of Oregon and a contributor to FishDuck.com, the go-to site for Oregon sports. (Think HuskerMax without the doomsday vibe in the message boards.)

Jason was kind enough to write a preview for us. Our only word of warning is read it at your own risk. If you think the Ducks are going to have a drop off following the end of the Marcus Mariota era, guess again. Like the Huskers of yore, they don’t have to rebuild. They just reload with fresh young talent.

Take it away Jason…

If you asked for my opinion on the Ducks offense coming into this season immediately after the brutal loss to Ohio State in the College Football Championship Game, I would have been concerned.  Losing Marcus Mariota made everything seem difficult again – fans were happy for him, but worried about the team.  Questions about who the quarterback was going to be formed a thick cloud over what was still a very talented offense to be.

The Spring Game on May 2 helped answer a lot of questions.  Long-time Mariota backup Jeff Lockie commanded the offense, throwing for 223 yards and three TD’s.  When asked after the game about Lockie’s performance, head coach Mark Heflrich said, “He played well.  As far as being ‘the guy,’ he has done everything right.  He has had an awesome spring.” Former Eastern Washington star QB Vernon Adams Jr. has graduated from his alma mater with a year of eligibility remaining, and is now officially a Duck. We’ll see how long Lockie can hold up at the top of the depth chart.
(UPDATE: Vernon Adams Jr. has been named Oregon’s week one starter.)

Jeff Lockie
With that #8 guy now in the NFL, Oregon’s offense could be helmed by longtime understudy Jeff Lockie. (Photo Credit – Kevin Cline)

Adams has been off limits to media and will remain so until he sees action on the field, which is in line with Oregon’s policy that no first year players (even if they’ve have years of experience) are allowed to speak to the press until they play. While his play making ability during fall camp has been impressive, Adams is self-admittedly behind Lockie when it comes to mastering Oregon’s complex playbook.

The Ducks get a dynamic scoring threat in Bralon Addison back from an ACL injury that caused him to miss the entire 2014 season.  Along with Addison, the Ducks have Byron Marshall, Devon Allen (hopeful to return from an ACL injury), Darren Carrington (suspended from the Championship game because of a positive marijuana test), Dwayne Stanford, and a slew of freshman talent that are sure to find roles in the offense throughout the season.

Heading into fall camp, Oregon’s high flying receiving corps was expected to complimented by a heavy run based attack but that plan hit a snag when it was announced that 5 star running back Thomas Tyner would be out for the season following a shoulder injury.

With Tyner out, sophomore Royce Freeman looks to retain his title of Oregon’s feature back which he rightfully earned after Tyner was out for a stretch during 2014. Freeman had an incredible freshman campaign (Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year) that saw him run for 1,365 yards, and 18 TDs.

Royce Freeman
Sophomore running back Royce Freeman will again shoulder the load for the Ducks’ ground game. (Photo Credit – Craig Strobeck)

In a recent interview with FishDuck.com writer Daniel Kantor, Ducks linebacker Rodney Hardrick praised the Pac-12 freshman of the year: “He reminds me of some guys we played last season, not going to name any names.  He is such a great athlete; it is exciting to play against him every day.”

Look for red shirt freshman Tony Brooks-James to be Freeman’s top back up with Kani Benoit and possibly receiver Byron Marshall rounding out Oregon’s rotation of running backs by committee.

Even with Oregon’s 1b running back out for the season, the amount of talent that this offense has is enough to make coaches in the Pac-12 dizzy.

Oregon Defense

 Last season, the Ducks gave up close to 430 yards per game, including a total of 2,481 yards on the ground.  However, the defense finished at No.31 in the country with 23.6 points per game.  With an offense that averaged over 46 points per game, the defense just needed to survive in order to win.

The disparity caused by the actual amount of yards given up, compared to the amount of points allowed, is due to the opportunities that the defense created for itself.  Much like Florida State did in the Rose Bowl, teams marched down the field on the Ducks, but made one mistake, leading to a very costly turnover.

This year’s defense will have to deal with replacing massive defensive end Arik Armstead, who was drafted with the No.17 pick by the San Francisco 49ers.  Very talented senior DeForest Buckner, along with 5-star recruit Canton Kaumatule look to solidify a defensive line that underachieved on many levels last season.

DeForest Buckner
DeForest Buckner probably doesn’t get a lot of run, DeForest, run heckles. (Photo Credit – Kevin Cline)

Losing All-American defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will be tough for this team to overcome.  Guys have been stepping up from all over, and it’s still unclear who will steal the show.  Charles Nelson, who many got to know for his play making ability as a freshman wide receiver last year, has made the switch to defensive back to help the depleted unit.

Charles Nelson
Charles Nelson-  Oregon’s version of DPE. (Photo Credit – Kevin Cline)

The defensive woes last year came from the inconsistent play of the linebackers.  This was made very evident in the thrashing that Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott handed out to the tune of 246 yards, and three TD’s.  Returning linebackers Joe Walker, Danny Mattingly, Tyson Coleman, Christian French, and the aforementioned Hardrick must work on securing more tackles and giving up less big plays.

Joe Walker
Oregon linebacker Joe Walker. Not to be confused with Nebraska’s Joe Walker. (Photo Credit – Kevin Cline)

Much like the offense, the defense has the players it needs to be successful – it’s all about finding the right combination.  In an interview with Chantel Jennings of ESPN.com, defensive coordinator Don Pellum said, “We lost some terrific players, but I think overall in terms of depth and experience, we are far ahead of where we were a year ago.”

I’m Buying the Ducks in 2015

 I am betting big on the Ducks this year.  I expect the Ducks to reel in 11 wins during the regular season, with the most difficult match up being at Michigan State week 2.  A late season match up against USC comes at the perfect time, as the Ducks will look to cement its top dog status in the Pac-12.

The immense amount of talent that this team has will certainly be exciting to watch.  It will be interesting watching the offense operate without Marcus Mariota, but there comes a time where every program must move on.  This will be another exciting year for the Oregon Ducks.

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How Many Potato Olés Does $6.54 Million Buy?

When you move away from Nebraska, either by choice or by lynch mob, there will be things you miss.

Topping my list are Potato Olés, those golden discs of deliciousness from your good buddy and mine, Taco John.

After the news broke about how much loot Bo Pelini would be officially raking in to not coach the Huskers, my mind did not race towards the inevitable figures of what $6.54 million breaks down to in terms of a monthly, daily, hourly, or even by-the-minute salary.

Nope, I had a larger figure to fry.

Specifically, how many Potato Olés could Pelini purchase with his $6.54 million don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out parting gift?

Would it be enough that Bo could be like Scrooge McDuck swimming in money?

Scooge McDuck Swimming In Money

Finding this magically delicious  number was going to be a challenge on two fronts.

1. The closest Taco John’s to Los Angeles is in Reno, NV. This is the Deep Space Nine outpost of the Taco John’s empire. Even though it’s closer to me than all the others, a 1,000 mile round trip journey was going to be a bit much.

2. The alternative would be to simply call a Taco John’s. My fair hometown of Grand Island proudly boasts three locations, one of which has a phone number published online. I opted out of this option because I couldn’t think of anyone that would chap angst-ridden teenage fry cook’s hide more than some moron calling out the blue to bother him about Potatoe Olés.

Luckily, Facebook, aka the the lazy journalist’s best friend, came to the rescue.
Potato Olés

Potato Olés Philosphy

A short while later, the answer was found, thanks to my good buddy Joshua. He even included a photo of himself and Bo for extra credit.

Potato Olé Research

OK, so what we’re working with.

Large Potato Olés = $2.59 (We’ll assume Taco John gave Pelini a quantity discount and covered the tax.)

Large Potato Olés = 46 Olés (That’s the number Joshua got so we’re running with it as the average.)

$6,540,000 / 2.59 = 2,525,095.56 large orders of Potato Olés. (We’ll go ahead and round that up.)

2,525,096 x 46 = 116,154,416 Potato Olés. (That’s 2,171,582,560 calories according to Taco John’s official nutritional information.)

Now to take things up a notch, let’s assume Potato Olés have an average height of a quarter inch when laid flat.

116,154,416 / 4 = a stack of Potato Olés 29,038,604 inches high.

29,038,604 / 12 = a stack of Potato Olés 2,419,883.67 feet high.

2,419,883.67 / 5280 = a stack of Potato Olés 458.311 miles high.

In other words, we’re talking pile of Potato Olés roughly the size of Chimney Rock.

Memorial Stadium filled with Potato Olés
(This illustration is NOT to scale but you get the idea.)

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Old Guys Attempt NFL Combine, Flail Miserably

With the NFL Combine happening this weekend, I came up with hair-brained idea to find out how mere mortals would stack up against this year’s Husker invitees Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell, and Randy Gregory.

One of the best parts about living in Los Angeles is that fellow idiots are only a text message away. It didn’t take much convincing to get my friends Brent and Ray from the hilarious Ray’s N’ Brent Podcast to meet up bright and early on a Saturday morning knowing the only outcome would be self-induced internet embarrassment and shame.

Not long after Kenny Bell broke off a 4.42 40 yard dash at the combine, we met at the 50 yard line of one of the most hallowed football fields in all of Los Angeles- Van Nuys High. You may know it better as Ridgemont High.

Yes, it is that Ridgemont High. Unfortunately the doors were locked so we couldn’t sneak in and sniff Phoebe Cates’ locker.

Brent Todd Ray
It was an honor to stand on the very field where Charles Jefferson single-handedly destroyed Lincoln High.

Van Nuys High Wolves
True Story: After Fast Times at Ridgemont High was filmed at Van Nuys High, the school’s mascot remained the Wolves in honor of Ridgemont’s mascot.

Ray, Todd, Brent
Tale of the tape: Ray was a Randy Gregory like 6’4″ 240, your humble author was a doughy Kenny Bell at 6’1″ and 212, and Brent came in at 5’9″ and a stout 255 (aka Ameer Abdullah plus 4 bowling balls).

Our agenda for the day was the same as many prospects working out at the combine. After checking to see how we measured up/how much we’d let ourselves go, we set out to do the 40 yard dash, 20 yard shuttle run, 3 cone drill, standing broad jump, vertical leap and in lieu of decapitating ourselves trying to bench 225lbs, a push up contest would be our grand finale.

And we got it all on video.

If you’d like to rock the 8-bit Husker style, Nebraska Red Zone can hook it up. And be sure to listen to Ray and Brent’s post combine analysis and smack talk on their show.

Going from the couch to the combine is not a move many fitness experts would ever recommend. Writing this a day later, my shoulder is still sore from failing to stick a landing in the vertical leap, some side fat is feeling the pain of being stretched in a direction it shouldn’t have been and there’s a hitch in the ol’ get-a-long thanks to  shanking one too many attempts at a 20 yard field goal.

Finishing the day within two seconds of Ameer in the 40 yard dash felt pretty good but any shred of glory got washed away as I did some math while hobbling off the field.

A two second margin of victory in a 40 yard footrace means that Ameer would win by nearly 20 yards.

His top performances in the vertical and the broad jump are even more ridiculous. In our tryout tape, we jumped from the edge of the sand because we didn’t know if we could even make it to the sand. And we used the soccer goal as our vertical measuring stick because none of us could even graze the bottom of the goal post’s crossbar, we are not who to ask if you want to increase your vertical jumping.

With actual, real training (and maybe 15 years rolled off the odometer) could it be possible to even hang at the combine?

Maybe. But then there’s that whole also-having-to-excel-at-playing-football thing that gets thrown in the mix as well. Not even The Ocho has room in their schedule for pro shuttle runners.

Ultimately, the jaw dropping numbers you see put up at the combine are the result of a decade or so worth of focused, hard work. And that’s on top of a no doubt strong foundation of natural talent.

Each and every single one of those guys who make it that far all had a coach at some point who gave them the hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle speech and realized talent that hustles could be unstoppable. You just gotta commit and do the work.

We’ll go ahead and end there.

I’m running late for my nap.

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